The best around: Forbes tabs Heat fans as tops in NBA

Heat fans cheer during the playoffs last season.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat’s fanbase has been the subject of plenty of discussion, ridicule and debate during the course of the Big 3 era.

Bandwagon accusations and tardiness to games at AmericanAirlines Arena have been cited as some of the key factors. Who could forget when some fans left early in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, just before the team mounted its legendary comeback? Surely no respected fanbase would do such a thing.

Forbes has devised a bit more of a scientific approach to measuring each NBA team’s fanbase, and after some heavy number-crunching, they named the Heat as having the best fans in the NBA.

"Fan engagement" criteria used in the study included:

— Hometown crowd reach

— Three years of TV ratings

— Three years of arena attendance

— Three years worth of merchandise sales

— Social media reach

Certainly the presence of LeBron James in Miami from 2010-14 helped the team’s numbers, but Forbes was careful to mention the reach the Heat have had both before and after the Big 3 era.

The publication noted how the team has consistently sold out or been at near-capacity at AmericanAirlines Arena and has placed in the top of merchandising and jersey sales for the past 10 years.

The future looks bright for the franchise with a new broadcasting deal with Sun Sports. And the team recently was named the NBA’s 2014 Retailer of the Year for a record fifth time — a testament to the team’s consistent success at fielding competitive teams as well as its marketing powers.

Here are the top 10:

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